« PreviousContinue »
world, as well as to shake off spiritual lethargy. Besides, they shew forth the virtues of the pious and the glory of God, and augment the reward and crown promised to the saints : In one word, they always work together for good to them who love God, Rom. viii. 28.
3. On account of our consciousness of sin and demerit. For whatever evils are brought upon us by the malice of men, are permitted by the justice of God. He would infict far heavier if he treated us according to our deserts. So the godly have ever acknowledged; Nehem. ix. 33; Dan, ix. 8.
4. On account of the worth and excellence of affliction. For it is not reproach (as the vulgar think) to suffer for Christ, or be trampled upon by the wicked; but, on the contrary, honourable. Whence says Peter, 1 Epis. iv. 16, If any man suffer as a Christian let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. So the Apostles were animated; they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name, Acts v, 41. We should rejoice in offlictions, says Parisiensis, because we are received to the communion of the sufferings of Christ, as it were to drink in common of the royal cup. In this sense also it is said in Philippians i. 29, Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
From what has been said of these two virtues we gather,
That they are not to be accounted happy nor men of fortitude, who in this world commit violence and oppress others, and do what they please against whom they please under the impulse of their fury and lust. They are not happy; since this is both the signal and the cause of their future damnation, Phi. i. 28: nor men of fortitude; for this is the effect of the old and impotent Adam, and shews them to be destitute of the sanctifying Spirit and all its gifts and ornaments.
On the other hand, We infer from the foregoing ; that they who bear with a meek spirit the injuries and reproaches of the wicked, are neither base nor miserable; but happy and valiant, as endowed with the Spirit of God, covered with his gifts as arms of defence, and by their means conquerors over all evil.
Vers. 13. Forbearing one another, and forgiving one ano
ther, if any man have a quarrel against any : even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
In these words the Apostle shews the use and requires the practice of the afore-mentioned virtues of meekness and long-suffering. It is of little moment to have virtues, if you neglect to exercise them when occasion offers. But in this verse three things are to be remarked: 1. The actions required ; two for instance : the action of suffering, forbearing one another; the action of forgiving, and forgiving one another. 2. The object of these actions (viz. the Monon) i. e. the just cause of complaint. 3. The rule of these our actions, viz. the example of Christ, as Christ also hath forgiven, &c.
Forbeuring one another.] Here is the first act of the before-named virtues. Now he is said to forbear who, though attacked and wounded either by words or deeds, does not immediately rise up to inflict revenge ; but endeavours to overcome his enemy with mildness and to bring him back to a proper mind.
However this forbearance under injuries is accounted mean among the proud, yet by the wise it is esteemed the best and most glorious way of conquest; and that on many accounts. For
1. He who bears injuries, overcomes and conquers himself, whilst he represses and restrains the desire for revenge always boiling forth from our corrupt nature; and binds and confines that wrath, as it were a furious monster, lurking within bim. This mode of conquest Solomon cele
brates in Prov. xvi. 32, He that is slow to anger is better than the mighly; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. To conquer oneself is the greatest of conquests, says Plato.
2. He who forbears, conquers the very malice of his enemy. For when two contraries are in contention and conflict, that is said to conquer which draws the other into similarity with itself; that to be conquered, which is drawn or changed by the other. Therefore, like as we say water is overcome by fire, when it becomes warm ; and, on the contrary, to have overcome it, if, retaining its own cold, it can subdue the fire: so we say a Christian is overcome by a wicked man, as often as he, by the provocation of attack, is drawn into similar fury; on the contrary, we may pronounce him to have conquered when he retains his own disposition, and, by bearing with the violence of the other, changes and mollifies his ferocity. See a beautiful example 1 Sam. xxiv. 17, &c.; where David, by forbearing, and refraining from revenge, so mollifies and changes Saul, that from breathing blood and slaughter, he melts into tears and entreaties, confesses his fault, and is compelled to acknowledge and extol David's innocence and meekness. Who does not here see the malice of Saul overcome, and the patience of David triumphing?
3. He who forbears, not only conquers, but conquers by lawful means, and those which God commands his soldiers to use. Now it behoves a soldier obeying the command of his general, not only to fight, but to do it with those arms, and in that manner which is assigned him. No one receiveth the crown unless he strive lawfully, 2 Tim. ii. 5. But hear the decree of our commander, Prov. xxiv. 29, Say not I will do so to him as he hath done to me; I will render to the man according to his work. Recompence to no man evil for evil, Rom. xii. 17; and again, vers. 21, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. So much for the act of forbearing.
And forgiving one another.] In this second act there is more contained than in the former. For there are some who sometimes bear injuries, because, forsooth, they cannot avenge them, or because they do not think it expedient; yet in the mean time the injury is treasured up in their memory, malice rages in their hearts, and a thirst for revenge burns. The Apostle, therefore, would have us, not only bear an injury, but remove from our hearts the very desire itself of revenge; nay, that we should cherish a love for our most bitter enemies. Here applies the precept of Christ, Matt. xviii. 35, That every one forgive his brother from his heart : and Luke vi. 27, 28, Love your enemies ; do good to them that hate you ; bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you. We read that all this was religiously observed by Christians in the primitive Church. It is the custom of all to love their friends ; of Christians alone to love their enemies, says Tertul. ad Scap.
Hence we are instructed
1. That those are in error who think that the forgiving of injuries and loving our enemies is matter of counsel and not of precept: for the Apostle teaches us that this belongs to all the elect of God, holy and beloved, that is, to all the regenerate.
2. They who forgive others profit themselves, yea, remove their own sins in some measure: whence in the Greek the phrase is χαριζομενοι εαυτοις, remitting or forgiving your own selves. And Jerome writes on Ephes. v. What good one does to another is laid up more for him who performs the deed, than for him for whom it is performed. And Christ most plainly says, Matt. vi. 15, If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses.
3. No one walks so cautiously, but that he sometimes offends against his neighbour both in words and deeds. Hence the Apostle says, forgiving one another ; as if we all had need of this mutual forgiveness. Thus much as to the actions required; viz. forbearing and forgiving.
If any man have a quarrel against any.] Here we have the object or matter about which forbearing and forgiving is to be exercised, viz. a quarrel, that is, some just cause of complaint.
Here we must remark that all the words are put indefi
nitely, and are therefore to be received universally, in this manner; If any man, that is, whoever in truth he may be, whether superior or inferior : shall have a quarrel, that is, any cause of complaint whatever, on account of any wrong done either in word or deed : against any, viz. whether friend or foe; let him know that the duty of forbearing and forgiving is necessarily imposed upon him.
Corollaries. 1. If a just cause is not a sufficient ground for inflicting revenge, it is evident that they grievously offend who break forth into disputes and strifes for triling and nugatory causes, nay, for those that are unjust and absolutely nothing. See Matt. xviii. 28.
2. Since the act of forbearing and forgiving is required from all towards all, the pride of the great and the rich is rebuked, who think themselves exempt from this duty : as if only the poor and weak were born to bear injuries, and the powerful and noble to inflict them. But the Scripture has not respect for nobility, power, or riches, but for fraternity, when it speaks of the forgiveness of injuries. See Matt. xviii. 21.
It is asked, If this duty of forbearing and forgiving be so necessary to a Christian, that it is not lawful for him in any way to repel an injury done to him, or to restrain or punish the person who offers it; but is bound when he is smitten on one cheek to turn the other; or when his cloak is taken away to offer his coat also ? as Christ says, Matt. v. 39, 40.
We reply, That it is not by any means lawful for a private person by himself, and according to the dictates of his own will, to seek his own revenge ; but it is sometimes lawful to do it by means of the magistrate and according to his judgment. Neither ought we to seek our revenge through the magistrate himself with an exasperated and corrupt mind, that is, with the passion of anger and hatred against our neighbour; but with a peaceful and meek mind, that is, from a zeal for righteousness, and a desire for the amendment of our neighbour: for it is better to lose any thing of this world, than to make a wreck of our patience